In a game for which the cliche 'game of two halves' could have been invented, Sutton and Tranmere shared the points, U's dominating the first half but with only one goal to show for it, and Tranmere coming back strongly in the second half to grab an equaliser, with the visitors denied a stoppage time winner by a magnificent Ben Goodliffe tackle which was as valuable as the goal with which he gave U's the lead after a quarter of an hour.
The flow of the game was dictated by a strong wind blowing towards the Gander Green Lane end of the ground, with U's unusually attacking that end in the first half, and the fear that more than one goal would be necessary was realised when Tranmere, who barely got out of their own half before the break, enjoyed much more of the game as this time it was Dean Bouzanis, returning after injury, who was the goalkeeper struggling to reach the halfway line with clearances. Once Josh Hawkes had equalised midway through the half, Sutton actually created more than their opponents had in the first period, but David Ajiboye missed two good chances and it was the visitors who came closest in the last action of the game when Goodliffe's brilliant tackle denied Elliott Nevitt with the goal at his mercy.
As well as Bouzanis, U's were able to welcome back captain Craig Eastmond, although with Will Randall added to the absentees the net gain was only one player, and with the wind on their backs U's put Tranmere under pressure from the start. After only five minutes Enzio Boldewijn met Joe Kizzi's deep cross with a diving header than was superbly saved by Joe Murphy, U's claims that he had clawed the ball back from behind the line falling on deaf ears.
Boldewijn was a prominent early threat for U's, curling a shot just wide from 25 yards and then seeing a deep left wing cross headed away for a corner which he took himself, and Goodliffe's glancing header bounced through the penalty area and in off the post.
For all the pressure U's were unable to add to the goal, Omar Bugiel going closest when he won a good challenge to burst clear on the left, but a heavy touch gave Murphy the chance to come off his line and smother the striker's shot. Ajiboye shot over from the edge of the penalty area, and Kizzi had an effort scrambled away from a corner, while just before half time Bouzanis was tested for the first time by a skidding low shot from Hawkes which he could only push away, U's eventually clearing the danger from the rebound.
Tranmere's response to being outplayed in the first half was to bring on Sam Foley for Josh McPake, and after Nevitt had picked up the afternoon's only booking for an aerial challenge on Kizzi the visitors were far more prominent and Foley almost had an impact, a strong run through the middle ending with a pass to Hawkes, whose shot was deflected in to the hands of Bouzanis. Kane Hammings and Foley both had shots deflected wide, while U's defence was resolute, both Goodliffe and Coby Rowe commanding in the air. The equaliser always looked likely, though, and came when a fine first time cross from Lee O'Connor was met with a well controlled volley at the far post by Hawkes.
At that stage Tranmere looked capable of going on and taking all three points, but the goal sparked U's, who had at that stage created as little as Tranmere had in the first half, into life and Ajiboye, up front alongside Bugiel after Richie Bennett had been replaced by Ricky Korboa, should have restored the lead from Bugiel's pass but shot badly over from fifteen yards.
Nevitt ran on to one long pass and poked a shot just past the post, and Bouzanis did well to hold a low shot from Foley, but the game almost had a dramatic finish, firstly when Ajiboye had another chance with two minutes to go, this one more of his own creation as he turned on to a Bugiel pass with a devastating turn of pace that took him clear of three defenders and round Murphy, only for his control to desert him as the ball ran away for a goal kick. Then a needless foul on Boldewijn by Josh Dacres-Cogley gave U's a chance to strike late, but Goodliffe's header looped harmlessly in to Murphy's arms. A quick release from the goalkeeper suddenly gave Tranmere the chance to grab the winner, and Nevitt collected Hemmings' pass and looked certain to score when Goodliffe came in with a superb tackle to turn the ball away, and after Nevitt headed over the resulting corner referee Will Finnie blew the final whistle.
Sutton: D Bouzanis, J Kizzi, B Wyatt, C Rowe, B Goodliffe, C Eastmond(sub K Davis 85), D Ajiboye, A Lovatt, O Bugiel, R Bennett(sub R Korboa 81), E Boldewijn. Subs n/u S Nelson, B House, C Dundas, K Kouassi.
Tranmere: J Murphy, J Dacres-Cogley, C MacDonald, L O'Connor, T Davies, P Clarke, J McPake(sub S Foley H-T), L Warrington, E Nevitt, K Hemmings, J Hawkes. Subs n/u N Knight-Percival, C Merrie, C Jolley, C McManaman, R Doohan, J Burton. Booked: Nevitt
Referee: W Finnie
Attendance: 3,366(451 away)